I was honoured to be invited to a top-secret event held at Woodbine Racetrack a few weeks ago… When I got the invitation, which said very little, I was intrigued. I know Tania Caza as a forward-thinking HR leader, who has attended the Reinvent Work Summit and is passionate about engagement and culture. So without knowing what I was attending, I hopped in my car for the half hour drive to Woodbine to find out what she and her team were up to.
When I made my way to the Admin Offices, I was met by a black curtain and a line up of dozens of Woodbine employees, waiting to enter..Had I stumbled into a pop up concert? Was Prince, or U2, behind the curtain, going to entertain an intimate group at Woodbine?
Not quite – but it was still quite awesome!
When the curtain was finally drawn open, we were ushered into a bright room, painted in bright colours, and Tania herself was jumping onto a desk to address the group.
Tania welcomed everyone to the newly re-designed “People Experience” department. No longer were they to be the traditional HR team. Their focus is on the experience of the people working at Woodbine.
Over the past couple of years, the Woodbine team has been on a culture journey. They started measuring the experience of employees at Woodbine, using Barrett Cultural Transformation tools (which I am certified in and LOVE!). They created values that speak their team’s language. They gauged cultural entropy, with a goal to reduce it. Cultural Entropy is a term we use in the Barrett Values world, that basically measures the degree of dysfunction in the organization, due to the behaviours of leaders and the experiences employees are immersed in at work. The higher the entropy, the lower the levels of trust and performance.
Culture change is a long game, and they haven’t reached half-time yet, but the People Experience team at Woodbine has done some great things to inspire alignment and connection to their culture. Here are a few:
The People Experience Team’s Awesome Vision
It’s all about making work awesome, so you know I am on board! (In case you don’t know, my mission is to make work awesome for everyone!)
In case you can’t read the photo with the glare, it reads:
“Our PX (People Experience) vision… Empowered by our values and beliefs, we will make work awesome!”
Everyone at the event was invited to sign the mural and commit to making work awesome.
2. The Values are fun and fit their world
Woodbine is an entertainment group. You can feel the energy of the racetrack, even when the races aren’t on. Their values speak to the experience of working in such an environment, with the excitement, fun, and guest-focused words and images.
The words are simple and the statements don’t sound like every other company’s corporate values which hang on the wall.
3. They’re Marketing their work
HR (or People Experience) is marketing. In what other area of the organization is there a team with such a small span of control that needs to influence people’s behaviour more?
Just as your Marketing team needs to influence consumers to purchase and engage with you, your HR team needs to influence the behaviour of employees at all levels.
In my opinion, every HR team should be thinking like marketers, and the way that Woodbine’s team has invested in the branding is a great lesson for other HR teams.
Their marketing perspective was also seen in how they launched their new People Experience department. With posters that only showed a date, then the letter “X” showing up in random employee areas, people were wondering (as I was) what this was all about. In today’s world of information overload, you have to do things differently to get people’s attention, and Woodbine’s PX team did that – and it paid off with dozens of people attending their launch party.
4. They’re involving Everyone in Culture #SquadGoals
They have created “Culture Squads”, each with a specific focus, for example, the Spirit Squad is responsible for fn activities and engaging employee initiatives such as door decorating contests and employee spaces. Anyone can join the squads, as long as they are committed to making work better for their colleagues. These squads recently took responsibility for creating unique experiences in “Nine Weeks of Values and Beliefs”. One of the experiences they created was “Pass the Selfie Stick”, where they provided props and selfie sticks and encouraged team members to show off how they have fun at work! Another was a “Trust in your Team” initiative Team in which team members could fill out a Trust In Our Team Recognition Ballot and explain why they wanted to recognize that person. More than 250 ballots were displayed in the Fuel The Fun Lounge, celebrating the great things coworkers were doing.
By involving people outside of HR, they’re making sure that culture is not just an HR initiative. The more diverse group comes up with creative ideas that are often more engaging than what you small team of HR pros might come up with.
I’m excited to see the impact a culture-focused, People Experience department can have on the organization, its employees and its guests.
Great work WEG team!